Cell phone privacy: Can police force you to hand over your phone's passcode?

(Source: WTHR file photo)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Just think about how much information you have stored in your phone — who you've talked to, where you've been, what you've been doing.

That type of information can be very helpful to police as they investigate crimes. But can they legally force you to reveal your passcode to access what's in your phone?

That question will soon be decided by the Indiana Supreme Court and it all stemmed from a case in Hamilton County.

Katelin Seo was accused of stalking and harassing her former boyfriend. Police got a warrant to search her phone for evidence, but she refused to give her password to police, stating that forcing her to reveal that information would violate her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself.

A Hamilton County judge found her in contempt and ordered she go to jail if she did not reveal her password to police. The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed and sided with her, saying the woman did and does not have to hand over her password.

The case is so important, the Indiana Supreme Court decided to get involved and eight states have filed an amicus briefs with the Indiana Supreme Court, citing “a strong interest in aiding this Court’s decision.”

While Deputy Attorney General Stephen Creason argues that a ruling against police in this case could have a devastating impact on their ability to investigate crimes, Seo's lawyer, William Webster, argues that police should have to identify the exact piece of evidence from the phone they're planning to use; they should not be allowed to take your phone and look at whatever content is on it.

The decision in this case could impact millions of people and it's likely to eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Click here to learn more about your rights when it comes to cell phone privacy, and how the Supreme Court decision could impact you.